Vermont, my 49th state. My final mainland state, my nemesis. Being so far northeast, but slightly away from the coast has meant Vermont never featured on any of my longer road trips. States like Maine and Massachusetts have stolen my attention on single state visits in the area, leaving Vermont untouched by my road tripping treads… until now.
If you’re looking for a great road trip route and map just read on, here is our great Vermont Road trip article, feel free to watch the beautiful Vermont short film, or scroll down to our suggested Road Trip Map & Route!
So what did I make of it? I should never have left it so long. Like its neighbor Maine, I’m going to regret leaving this gorgeous landscape until my final year.
Vermont, like much of the north-east region of the US, has a largely British feel. Its towns handles are largely copied from original British names; Londonderry, Dorset, Manchester, Stowe, Colchester, the list goes on and on. My first impression when rolling into the state from Boston was that it felt like I’d driven through a wormhole and appeared in the Yorkshire Dales National park in England. Rolling hills cascade into the distance in all directions, farms dotting the grassy waves. People are few and far between and when encountered they are congenial and engaging.
There are no major cities in Vermont, though small towns and villages exist in large numbers, each more quaint and inviting than the last. Coffee houses are dotted around in old buildings and craft breweries are found in with a density not seen in any other state in the country. It’s a perfect small road trip location and though I have included a suggested road route map below, you barely need a map for the trip.
Brattleboro was the first town I encountered on the way in, I spent my first night there and enjoyed a delightful bit of food and coffee from the local brewer Mocha Joe’s. Brattleboro is a pleasant little high street centered town, with one of Vermont’s famous covered bridges to look at. It features McNeil’s, Hermit Thrush and Whetstone Breweries are dotted around the town and all three are worth a tasting.
The Green Mountains
The town serves as a nice gateway to Vermont’s Green Mountains, a stunning region traversed by the official Appalachian Trail. The forests are dotted with lakes, hills and quaint towns like Woodford and Glastenbury. Summer hiking is a must here, and ski locations include Mt Snow and Stratton Mountain.
Head up the I91 until you hit highway 4 (see the above driving map) and you’ll hit the town of Quechee. This town has the comically and somewhat overstated ‘Grand Canyon of Vermont’. Though not entirely accurate in name, its grandeur is still impressive. A stunning river canyon which begs for your hiking boots.
Further along highway 4 you’ll hit Woodstock, another wonderfully quaint and bustling village worth a stop. You can easily spend an afternoon here exploring the little stores and sipping coffee in its cafes.
From here I hit the road and pushed on all the way to the biggest ‘town’ in Vermont; Burlington. With a population of just over 42,000 its still very much a small town, and like Portland in Maine, has a very English feel. Cobbled pedestrian high streets, pubs and cafe’s on every corner and a great mix of cuisines. The town is set on the banks of Lake Champlain, which upon my arrival was frozen solid and under a blanket of snow, adding to its appeal as a vista.
I have to admit, I loved this little town. I hung around for a couple of days because it makes for a perfect base to explore the region, but also because I enjoyed finding new places to eat and drink here every day. Let’s start with the beer… the top two breweries here are Magic Hat, which most beer fans will be aware of, and Switchback Brewing, which has a stunning IPA on its menu. This road trip seemed at times to be more of a brewery tour, but I saw no issue with that. The six or seven breweries in the immediate area supply most of the bars in Burlington so you’ll be able to sample plenty, well into the evenings.
The eateries include higher end bistro’s like Farmhouse, to Irish Pubs like Ri Ra (which serves a mean set of wings and serves a great beer selection.
The main attractions are the Shelburne Museum and the lovely waterfront. The museum is actually 39 buildings, perfectly preserved, including barns, station houses and even trains. The collection, from Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960) and her parents – 150,000 objects in all, will blow you away.
The waterfront is stunning, worth driving the length of Vermont for, even in -10C weather (that’s 14f). I strolled in the evening light with hardly anyone else around, I basked in my solitude, feeling like the scene in front of me had been set up for my personal delight.
The drive between Burlington and Waterbury takes you along the Winooski River, through a beautiful valley that I got up early to see. Basked in golden sun, with fog evaporating off the snow, it took on a surreal appearance. Turning north at Waterbury will take you to the jewel of Vermont: Stowe.
On our road trip map, I took the route to show Stowe, but driving directions are a little off here, head north of Stowe for a while for the best thing to sample in the area. To be fair, I only made the journey to this area only in part to see Stowe. 70% of my reasoning was to make the pilgrimage to The Alchemist. This brewery produces a beer (Focal Head) which has been voted best in the nation two years running. The brewery changed the craft beer game over the last decade and I’d heard legendary tales of its golden, crafty notes. Located just above Stowe, and easy to locate, the brewery is a little quirky upon arrival. No taproom, it has a tasting section, where small sample glasses are poured free of charge, then you head to the store and exchange your dollars for cans of the good stuff. It’s a pleasant, if somewhat sterile experience, but one that is rescued entirely by the quality of their product. This beer is actually the 2nd best beer I have ever tasted, behind Spruce Tip, by Baranof brewery on the island of Sitka, off the coast of Alaska. Maybe its joint first, hard to say since a couple of years have passed between samplings. It was very good though, very good.
Stowe is your typical Vermont mountain ski town. Outdoorsy, fresh, cozy, hip without being too much, equal measures of breweries and coffee shops. I left the brewery and wandered around for a time, the streets were pleasant and shops were intriguing. I grabbed food and a warm drink at Black Cap Coffee and Beer, a nice little coffee shops which sandwiches and a great selection of craft beer cans from all over the region. I took a walk around the town and then decided I’d try to see if I could hunt down a local outdoor feature, which I’d heard might be accessible even in Vermont’s mid-winter.
Moss Glen Falls is a beautiful sight in spring and summer, google it and you’ll find plenty of middle earth looking shots of it. But I contest that it’s just as spectacular, for very different reasons, mid-winter.
I hiked the short trail, before abandoning the snow-covered route and simply walked on the river. It was so heavily frozen that it became the easiest route. When I arrived, I was greeted by yet another little natural treat from Vermont; my own personal frozen falls.
No tourists around, I took my time exploring and got some great drone video flying up it, with the water running just behind the wall of ice. I stood in awe, on the river, listening to the roaring water passing beneath me. Spectacular.
Vermont is stunning, beautiful in winter, but I do regret not seeing it in summer, the hikes, mountains and towns look like a summer vacation paradise. I suppose I’ll just have to come back and road tripit again.